WARNING: Graphic Content
Male nurse Michael William Schuppe, 59, was granted bail on Sunday after being charged with the sexual assault of an 89-year old aged care resident with ‘extreme dementia,’ in October this year.
It is alleged that Mr Schuppe digitally penetrated the 89 year old victim in front of a co-worker, after the pair had used a sling to lift the woman from her wheelchair as they prepared her for bed at the Queen Victoria Memorial Home in Picton, NSW.
Police documents state that the accused’s co-worker heard the woman yell: “Don’t do that,” as Mr Schuppe fitted the victim with a night pad, but the co-worker failed to come forward about the incident, instead marking the date on a calendar with four initials which police allege is code that refers to the incident.
Almost two months went by before the co-worker came forward and reported that Mr Schuppe was “doing bad things” around the home and was suspended.
Mr Schuppe who is both a father and grandfather, also cared for his own mother as a high needs patient.
Mr Schuppe appeared at Parramatta Bail Court via videolink on Sunday charged with aggravated sexual assault, and sat silently while shaking his head as the police prosecution warned that he was a danger to vulnerable people.
Mr Schuppe’s lawyer told the court that he “strenuously denied” the allegations against him, and boasted a spotless record with no criminal history or allegations of violence.
Despite the serious nature of the allegations, Mr Schuppe was granted bail on the condition he did not look for work in the aged sector or other disability service. And is required to report daily to police until his impending new court date in January.
While the ‘slap on the wrist’ approach to sentencing within the Australian criminal justice system is a separate debate all together, the penchant for granting bail to those who pray on the most vulnerable of victims is nothing short of astounding.
While the accused in this case is yet to be convicted of any crimes, and may actually be completely innocent, surely the serious nature and the circumstances surrounding the victim should constitute keeping the accused behind bars.
But somehow, the feelings of the victim and safety of the public play second fiddle to the misplaced goodwill of the court system.
The elderly can be extremely vulnerable and often require assistance on a variety of levels in order to be able to function.
Being entrusted to care for these people should be a privilege and responsibility that is treated with the utmost respect.
This respect should be derived from the empathy and good nature of those chosen to work alongside vulnerable Australians, but it should also be underpinned by a justice system that views a violation of this responsibility as more than just a crime.
Those who pray on people in these positions cross a moral code that reaches far beyond the rules and regulations of criminal law.
And it is extremely hard to spin a narrative of caring and valuing our elderly when the court system produces results that contradict these notions.
While the upcoming findings of the Royal Commission have people within the aged care sector gearing up for an onslaught of horror stories, what will uncovering these scandals mean if things don’t change and people are not given adequate punishment for their crimes?
CCTV has been a topic of conjecture within residential aged care for a long period of time, but the official stance from all of the parties involved in this discussion, should give some indication of who has the residents wellbeing as the top priority.
The majority of residential aged care providers oppose the use of CCTV within facilities, citing issues of privacy and the negative financial impact involved in adding this element to a facility.
Yet, the majority of families with loved one’s in aged care facilities feel that this added layer of transparency will provide a safer and more accountable environment for those being entrusted with the welfare of their elderly family members and friends.
Adding CCTV to a residential aged care facility but giving families/residents the option to opt-out of being filmed, could make a massive difference to the safety and wellbeing of elderly residents, and court systems looking for the truth regarding horrible accusations.
In order for the elderly people of Australia to feel safe and valued by their society, there needs to be an adequate level of scrutiny placed on those that deal with them personally or those that make decisions on issues that relate to them.
Aged care facilities and services should leave no stone unturned in assessing the character of prospective employees, and place the moral compass and integrity of a worker before the pedigree of schooling and previous employment.
And those who witness wrongdoing within these spaces should have a duty of care to report immediately or face charges of negligence.
Facilities and their employees should have zero objection to anything that has the potential to shed light on the inner workings and treatment of residents within their care, including the use of CCTV.
And those that violate the responsibility of caring for our most vulnerable should receive the strongest interpretation of our laws.
It is then, and only then, when the elderly people of this country could begin to consider that their issues are being treated with the level of respect that they should be.
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